By Contributing Authors: Million Belay and Loren Cardeli • A model of this text was initially printed on

In northern Uganda, nestled within the Western Rift Valley homelands of the Acholi folks, Immaculate Omona grows a native groundnut (peanut) selection referred to as Acholi valencia. High yielding and drought tolerant, this selection reliably supplies important vitamins her household is determined by. However, this plant supplies extra than simply meals; it additionally embodies her tradition, telling a story of resilience and survival.

For a few years, the north of Uganda was stricken by a brutal warlord named Joseph Kony. Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)  preyed on the folks of Uganda, abducting tens of 1000’s of kids in his marketing campaign of mutilation, torture, slavery, and rape. His horrific reign of terror led to hundreds of thousands being relocated to Internal Displacement Camps for over 20 years.

It is at considered one of these camps that Omona’s aunt waited for the fear to cease. For these 20 years, she saved a single household heirloom: the Acholi valencia. Every yr, she cultivated this plant on the aspect of the camp, rising sufficient to maintain it alive, furthering the very important traits that make it distinctive. Even in the course of the battle, she understood the importance of this selection and did every part she might to maintain it alive.

The Monopolization of Seeds in Africa

Vicky Lokwiya, Ugandan seed saver
Vicky Lokwiya (Photo Courtesy of FoodTank)

However, it’s not simply wars that threaten the world’s biodiversity. African governments are giving in to company stress to undertake legal guidelines that deny farmers’ rights to avoid wasting, plant, trade, and promote their very own seeds. Well-funded promotion, subsidies, coercion, and promoting are being deployed in an try and roll out industrial seeds designed for monocultures and chemical substances and to displace farmers’ varieties suited to natural farming. The finish purpose is obvious: to stop farmers from saving seeds in order that they purchase company hybrid seeds as an alternative.

Seed Saving in Seed Banks

Today, Omona is dedicated to scaling up her manufacturing. And she is creating a native marketplace for this peanut selection. Supported by farmers’ group, the Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), she has already shared these seeds with many farmers in her neighborhood. Omana defined, “We have our seed bank; now we don’t wait for government or private seed companies to distribute seeds, which often come too late in the season. We are now planting good indigenous seeds at the right time and getting good yields.” But these seeds present extra than simply good yields; they weave the cultural cloth of their indigenous neighborhood.

Across Africa, this story is echoed as seed saving resists the cultural erosion that industrial agriculture thrives on. Behind each seed is a story. Encoded of their DNA is a wealthy historical past of folklore and cultural custom.

With the onslaught of the so-called Green Revolution, these conventional seed varieties are being misplaced, forgotten, and discouraged by governments and a few improvement NGOs. This has resulted in a type of ecocide the place, for a lot of crops, as much as 80% of those native varieties could also be misplaced ceaselessly.

As a end result, seed banks are paramount to defending vanishing biodiversity and are the muse for native meals sovereignty. Across the world, farmer organizations, like ESAFF, are crucial to constructing and sustaining these very important seed banks.

The Importance of Local Seed Varieties

Indigenous African okra plant
Okra selection: Otigo Tung Lacwar (Photo Courtesy of FoodTank)

An area seed selection is developed by the neighborhood for the neighborhood, in live performance with the wants of the neighborhood. As seeds are chosen every season to be planted the subsequent yr, they’re chosen for a purpose. That purpose may be pest resistance, drought tolerance, or excessive yield. These valuable varieties have been developed over millennia by unnamed scientists – the farmers – they usually maintain the solutions to rising meals with a altering local weather and the inevitable excessive climate occasions that observe. Additionally, these varieties have been a essential a part of native tradition, offering a numerous and nutritious diet in line with native tastes and traditions.

There is an okra selection referred to as Otigo Tung Lacwar — the horn of the antelope — a drought-tolerant seed that Vicky Lokwiya obtained from a pal and now cultivates and shares with different farmers. Lokwiya is the secretary of a seed saving group in St. Mauritz parish. She has been with this group for 25 years now and is a mentor to lots of the members. Watching her stroll the farms of her fellow ladies farmers, she is a dwelling library, remembering each element about these seeds. She shares this data freely as she walks the dwelling seed banks, inspecting leaves and stating how the federal government seeds — the hybrids — fail to carry out.

“I think the hybrid seed is the one bringing us diseases we were not suffering from before,” Lokwiya explains. “We had been fooled for so long by private companies and some government officials that our indigenous seed system was backward. Now, we have shown them that small-scale farmers can collect, multiply, and store seed safely under good quality control.”

Seed Saving Collectives

The seed savers are organized round village financial savings and mortgage teams, the place members pay into the collective. To illustrate simply how a lot the group has grown in measurement and worth, she says once they began, the members contributed 800 Uganda Shillings in dues for the primary yr. By the yr 2000, the members contributed over 500,000 UGX. Today, it’s near a million. The cash is used to create a collaborative assist community for farmers in want, in addition to care for well being providers.

Group member Beatrice Akello defined how this made a distinction, “I used to buy seeds very expensively. Yet, I didn’t always have money — given the other social responsibilities that I have as a widow. Now, I sometimes sell seeds. What a good feeling – I am independent!”

Local vs. Hybrid Varieties

Vicky Lokwiya holding turmeric variety
Vicky Lokwiya holding turmeric selection Bizali (Photo Courtesy of FoodTank)

Before the battle, a native turmeric referred to as Bizali was grown within the space. It is wealthy in colour and taste, however because the battle had been eliminated fully from the native eating regimen. However, Lokwiya discovered this selection alive within the bush after 20 years of being left for nature to take care of. Amazed at how this selection continued to outlive, she is now dedicated to not solely rising this crop, however educating her neighborhood on its numerous well being and medicinal advantages.

After the battle, many native folks got land round 4 kilometers away. Instead of ready for help from the World Food Programme, the neighborhood needed to develop their very own meals, and particularly domesticate the varieties that have been developed by their ancestors. Unfortunately, not like the Bizali, many crops have been misplaced ceaselessly.

Lokwiya factors to a cassava hybrid that the federal government was selling and laughs as she compares it to a native selection referred to as Oroo Ki Raa that towers over the hybrid even after a dry yr. She notes this cassava selection disappeared in the course of the battle, however she has since discovered it once more and is on a quest to put it up for sale to her native communities. Oroo Ki Raa doesn’t get spoiled after six months when the hybrid varieties are already rotten. Instead, it has a wealthy taste and is drought tolerant. Lokwiya factors out that even when animals eat the leaves, the cassava nonetheless produces a wholesome crop.

Seed saving teams empower ladies like Lokwiya to extend household meals and diet safety whereas boosting incomes. Here in northern Uganda, ladies are on the frontlines of local weather change adaptation, working heroically collectively to satisfy the various challenges they face by affirming their rights to avoid wasting, use, trade and promote their conventional seeds.

More info will be discovered at Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa and by watching this video: 

Women Seed Saving Kenya FC from the supply undertaking on Vimeo.

Tell us within the feedback:

  • What do you suppose?
  • Is preserving seed variety necessary?
  • Are you conscious of any seed banks the place you reside?

Featured picture: Photo Courtesy of FoodTank

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